by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock
Most women, whether they will readily admit it or not, desire to be married. Many young girls have dreamed about the white dress and handsome groom since their earliest childhood. Even those with career or educational goals usually say that some day they would like to be married.
As women mature, those childhood dreams may grow into the desire for genuine affection, companionship, security, and the desire to bear children and to nurture a family. Marriage becomes the primary means for accomplishing her heart’s desires.
The secular world cultivates these desires by vigorous marketing. The world sets the trends for every detail—the wedding-party apparel, the ceremony order, the cake, and even the etiquette requirements for gifts and bill paying. The tourist industry participates by marketing honeymoon packages. Given the influence of secular input, how should the wise woman view the wedding ceremony and the institution of marriage?
“Christians need to examine each aspect of the wedding from a biblical standpoint,” writes N. Wilson in her book, A Beautiful Doorway. “Christians more than all people should understand what a wedding is all about.” What is the purpose of marriage from a biblical perspective? The marriage relationship was the first human institution established by God (Genesis 2:24). This permanent relationship was complete and whole with one man and one woman becoming one flesh. What were God’s intended purposes for marriage? Why is marriage important to God?
The primary reason marriage is significant to God is because it is part of His ordained plan to provide the world with a picture of His love for men and women. Marriage becomes the means for married couples to demonstrate their love for God. Wilson states: “The wedding ceremony is not an end in itself. In fact, marriage is not an end in itself. Marriage is a means of serving and glorifying God. Young women who view marriage as their chief goal are turning the wedding and the married state into an idol. God planned for marriage to be a blessed state of mutual service to Him.”
God established marriage as a covenant, not a contract (Malachi 2:14; Proverbs 2:16-17). It is important to understand the difference between these two. Three important differences exist:
1. A covenant is based on trust between parties. A contract is based on distrust.
2. A covenant is based on unlimited responsibility. A contract is based on limited liability.
3. A covenant cannot be broken if new circumstances occur. A contract can be voided by mutual consent.
Therefore, the marriage covenant between a man and a woman is a comprehensive and permanent commitment. This type of marriage covenant was ordained by God to provide believers with a picture of Christ’s love and relationship to His church (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 21:2, 9).
There are few life situations that test true Christianity more than the intimacy of the marriage relationship. Due to the close nature of the marriage relationship, sins of selfishness, pride, laziness, and impatience are readily exposed on a daily basis. The Apostle Paul vividly describes our natural tendencies in 2 Timothy 3:1-13 when he describes us as selfish, arrogant, and unloving.
These tendencies are superimposed on the marriage relationship, thus testing Christian character in the areas of sacrificial love, respect, submission, forgiveness, and perseverance. Living together in unity with her husband requires a woman of wisdom to embrace biblical means of resolving conflict and demonstrating Christian love.
The wise woman understands that as she strives to model Christ’s relationship to His church she will be required to mature her Christian character. She will subsequently encounter opportunities to demonstrate that character in her marriage relationship, which ultimately allows her to fulfill God’s intended purpose for her marriage—the modeling of Christ and His relationship with His bride, the church. Both husbands and wives must pursue love as defined in Ephesians 5:25-30 … a sacrificial, purifying, and steadfast love.
Once the wise woman embraces God’s primary purpose for marriage, she will encounter numerous secondary purposes or blessings of a Christ-honoring relationship. Many women have the tendency to pursue these secondary purposes over God’s primary purpose. While secondary purposes are good and worthy of pursuit, they should be viewed as blessings resulting from God’s primary purpose for marriage—that of modeling Christ’s love for His church through the development of Christian character. Secondary purposes for marriage could include:
1. Companionship. The affection, love, and true companionship which grow out of a oneness of spirit as each partner models Christ’s unconditional love (Amos 3:3).
2. Enjoyment. The physical relationship is a reflection of the loyalty and affection shared among marriage partners who have become “one flesh” (Hebrews 13:4).
3. Fruitfulness. The blessing of children in a marriage relationship allows that relationship to reproduce itself physically. It is an example of the “oneness” that results in a marriage (Genesis 1:28; 1 Peter 3:7).
4. Protection. The husband protects the wife by laying down his life for her (Ephesians 5:25). The wife is to protect the home (Titus 2:4-5) and the parents together protect their children to raise up a godly seed (Malachi 2:15; Psalm 112:1-2).
When secondary purposes for marriage are placed above the primary purpose, discontentment, fearfulness, and disillusionment often result. For example, the woman who has made the primary purpose of marriage fruitfulness will be devastated and unfulfilled if she is unable to bear children of her own.
A woman who has made companionship or enjoyment her primary purpose of marriage will desire fulfillment through other relationships or outlets if her husband does not fully meet her every need.
The woman who desires security and protection may feel fearful or insecure when finances are constrained and resources limited.
Maintaining a godly perspective of the purpose of marriage provides the foundation for a successful marriage relationship. Marriage becomes a spiritual endeavor rather than being dependent on financial status, bearing children, or securing a specific employment. Being able to fulfill God’s intended pattern and purpose for marriage should motivate wise women to develop Christlike character.
My husband made a good point: “God intended for the marriage relationship to be the hallmark of the Christian home. The love relationship between husband and wife should provide the clearest picture of Christ’s love. The model it provides to children, the church, and the world would effectively draw others to the love of Christ.”
This article was taken from Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God, © 2003, by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock. Used by permission of Moody Publishers.
FamilyLife is the Marriage and Family ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ